High action Korean films have been exploding into cinemas, carving themselves a unique niche in this popular genre. The latest action offering – The Curse: Dead Man’s Prey – also capitalises on a genre the Koreans have been known for: horror.
Dead Man’s Prey is actually an expanded universe of the hit 2020 series The Curse, written by Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-Ho. The universe is based on ancient dark magic where dead bodies are reanimated by shamans to seek revenge. While you don’t need to have watched the series, it does give you a better explanation of how Im Jin-Hee (Uhm Ji-Won), the gung ho reporter (and the lead) in the film, is related to the teen shaman named So-Jin (Jung Ji-So).
The movie begins with a supernatural premise: someone is murdered by a corpse that has been dead for three months. This is where Jin-Hee comes in – the culprit reveals to her that there will be three more murders to come, and they will also be carried out by reanimated corpses (who’re called ‘jaechaui‘). The film ticks all the boxes of horror, mystery, and action.
The horror – or supernatural element – involves hooded corpses that seem to appear everywhere you don’t expect. While they seem to be human, what they do with their bodies is eerie. The only minor complaint is in the CG department when the jaechaui ‘die’.
The mystery portion explains the origin of the jaechaui – there are plenty of clues involving strange occult markings and… an Indonesian connection. The culprit is either very obvious or very obscure, depending on how you view the film.
The action is what makes the film most entertaining. There are several scenes worthy of mention, including the tunnel car chase and a hilarious scene involving taxis. There’s also an interesting dilemma posed by the undead: in the huge battle between the police and jaechaui, someone has to solve the ‘we can’t shoot them because they don’t have guns’ problem.
As the film progresses and the mystery deepens, the plot suddenly becomes a story of revenge using the dark arts against a company that abuses the marginalised. And stopping the onslaught of this jaechaui apocalypse lies in the hands of one unexpected person.
If it’s one thing to take away from this film, it’s that the women play a more prominent part in making decisions and solving problems.
All in all, the film brings together all the expected elements of horror, occult mystery, and action in an entertaining way. (One also can’t help but wonder if part of this plot was inspired by the ‘nut rage’ incident in Korea.) Just don’t expect it all to make sense in the real world.
Oh, and stay until the very end of the movie, as there are extra scenes.